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May 11, 2011

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Runaway lived high life in villas

A 17-YEAR-OLD runaway took up residence in empty villas, wearing the owners' clothes, using their kitchens and even stealing the wiring.

The minor, surnamed Li, was sentenced to four months in prison with probation of six months for larceny yesterday by the Putuo District People's Court.

Li, a Sichuan Province native, lived with his father and dropped out of school after his parents divorced.

He fled to Shanghai in December 2010 because he lost all his money gambling and was afraid to confront his father.

Li failed to find a job and roamed around the city. He met a middle-aged vagabond under a highway bridge in Jiading District. The man claimed he could take Li to live in luxury houses.

Even though he didn't know the man's name, Li followed the drifter to a villa complex in the district's Huangdu Town. They broke in, dressed in the owner's clothes, slept in the bedroom and cooked in the kitchen. In addition to stealing valuables, they even dragged wires out of the walls to sell.

The pair usually left the villa in the morning and went back late at night, so they wouldn't be detected by security guards or neighbors, judges said.

Li broke into and stayed in five villas within a month and stole items such as commemorative coins, clothes and some ornaments.

However, he set off a burglar alarm while breaking into a villa in January and was detained by police.

Huang Rong, chief judge of the juvenile court in the Putuo court, said the case indicates that there are a large number of empty properties in the city, many bought as investments.

Some property owners are reluctant to inform police when intruders have been detected because losses are often slight.


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